Buck Davidson has won the Gold Cup Final of the US Eventing Association’s American Eventing Championships, riding Petite Flower to victory in the prestigious event in Texas over the weekend.
Davidson and Petite Flower, owned by Caroline Martin, jumped double-clear over Richard Jeffery’s challenging course at the Texas Rose Horse Park, edging out overnight leaders and defending champions Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch to win the $40,000 Adequan Gold Cup.
But even though he won his first trip to Texas for the Nutrena USEA American Eventing Championships, presented by VTO Saddlery, and a hefty $20,000 prize check, Davidson was quick to deflect praise about his performance, chalking much of the result up to luck.
“That’s why we play the game, right?” said Davidson of Ocala, Florida, who ended his weekend on a score of 39.6. “That’s what happened to Laine. You win some, you lose some, but I think everyone rode really well. Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not.”
In typical fashion for Davidson, he also credited his horse Petite Flower (Amber’s Lust x Tears of a Loss) for the end result.
“Flower did what she always does and gave me her 110 percent in the show jumping, and I just tried to stay out of her way,” he said.
Defending Gold Cup Champion Laine Ashker may have been one unlucky rail from defending her title, but admitted, “If I had to be second to anyone, I’d want it to be my coach!”
“I’m ecstatic, he gave me three great phases,” said Ashker of Richmond, Virginia, who plans to aim Anthony Patch for the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* next April. “I’m going to buy my cross-country video because it was just one of the best rides. I guess today was a little unlucky, and my inexperience shows and I just didn’t get him quite round enough through the turn. Like coach said, you win some, you lose some.”
Matthew Brown maintained his position near the top of the leaderboard on Super Socks BCF, going from second to third place with one dropped rail.
“I think the lesson I took away from today is I need to trust him,” said Brown of Petaluma, California, whose next stop is the Fair Hill International CCI3* in Elkton, Maryland. “He was jumping great and I just picked too much to one fence. I knew I was going to have it down. I’m getting there with him and I’m starting to trust him a lot more on cross-country and I just need to carry that over into show jumping.”
One of the most amazing moments of the day was a tenacious save made by Texan Avery Klunick. Third in the ring in the Gold Cup division, she had a refusal at a vertical coming around the corner from the in-gate and was tossed up her horse’s neck, pulling his bridle over his head. Instead of dismounting or asking for a helping hand to put the bridle back on her horse, both of which would have resulted in elimination, she reached forward and managed to get the bridle back on her horse’s head and finished her round, embodying the eventer’s grit and spirit, and her horse’s name, In It To Win It.
Seven other division Champions were crowned on Sunday, taking home cash and prizes from supporting sponsors.
The Merial Open Intermediate division was won by Tamra Smith with Twizted Syster, who added nothing to her dressage score all weekend, finishing on 33.3 penalties. This time the runner-up position went to Buck Davidson with Quasar, who, having led after dressage had one unfortunate rail in show jumping to drop back to second on a score of 34.4. Texan Bailey Moran rounded out the top three, showjumping cleanly to finish on 35.8 with Loughnatousa Caislean.
Fellow Texan Megan Noelle Wilson took the Junior/Young Rider Preliminary division with Ghypsy, also finishing on her dressage score of 27.6 penalties.
Corinna Garcia came from Ohio to Texas to win the Novice Horse division on Jamaica Skodstrupp and with a double-clear show jumping round, finishing on their dressage score of 23.0 penalties. The eight-year-old mare is as eye-catching as she is athletic, with a unique color pattern that is characteristic of a rare breed.
“She’s a Knabstrupper,” explained Garcia. “Steve Willham owns Hinckley Equestrian Center (Hinckley, Ohio) and they were looking for someone to help out with their eventing program. They own seven Knabstruppers and they’re pretty excited to get this breed out and about. There are only about 1500 of them in the world, and only about 200 in the US.”
Kristen Hardy had some help from an angel, winning the Senior Novice Amateur division aboard Enchanted (Double Cream – Willma) on her dressage score of 27.5 penalties. Hardy rode with a purple streak in Enchanted’s tail in memory of Avery Dudasch, a young competitor who passed away at the age of 11 from cancer; the team from Platinum Farms (Franktown, Colo.) and Dudasch’s mother, Vicki, stood ringside to cheer her on.
Texan Seguin Alexander, 13, and Motion Granted redeemed themselves after an imperfect finish at the AEC last year, winning the Junior Novice division on their dressage score of 22.5. Seguin bought the now 12-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Shaquin – Richsis) from Texas eventer Meg Johnson, but wasn’t convinced at first that they were a perfect match.
“We started training with Mary Darcy and ever since then, he’s just kept moving up and getting better,” she said. “At first I wasn’t too sure that I was in love with him but over time our bond kept getting stronger and stronger. Now I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
Erin Pullen and Jodi Koford’s Strider Can Fly (Loki x Thiselephantcanfly) won the Broadstone Beginner Novice Horse division on the lowest finishing score of the entire AEC: 20.0.
The Broadstone Senior Beginner Novice Amateur title went to Jill Wagenknecht and her own Irish Sport Horse mare, CD Dancer (Crosstown Dancer x My Valley of Dreams). They finished on their dressage score of 23.5 penalties.
Thirteen-year-old Maddalyn Hunt from The Woodlands, Texas, won the Broadstone Beginner Novice 14 and Under division aboard a horse that she found for sale online, Argentinian Warmblood gelding Jos Estoico.
Melissa Morris, 15, and appaloosa pony RSR Private Eye won the Broadstone Beginner Novice Junior (14 & Over) division on a final score of 27.5 penalties. Melissa’s parents bought RSR Private Eye (AV Cowboys Cadillac x CR Private Dream) as a two-year-old stallion for $250.
“We never really thought he would jump or do anything special,” said Morris. “We were going to do 4H with him but he was spooky and wasn’t very good at 4H.”
Melissa’s coach, Bridget Mason, said 15-year-old Morris (Liberty, Mo.) has done all the training on the pony herself.
“The first time he went cross-country, he was bolting and rearing and bolting and freaking out,” she said. “She got eliminated at her first event on him because he stopped within the first several fences; he didn’t even make it to fence 4.”
Now, the once-naughty pony is an American Eventing Champion and even has an Instagram account called “appaloosalife” with about 5,000 followers.
Sunday was also the conclusion of the Adult Team Championship competitions. The Preliminary Adult Team Championship was claimed by the Area V and VII “Run Four Roses” team with a score of 109. The Training level ATC title went to the combination team of Areas II, III and VIII with 107.2 penalty points. The Novice level team winners from Area V had the best score of all ATC teams, with only 97.0 penalty points. Finally, in the Beginner Novice Adult Team Championship, a combination team between Areas II and III scored a 103.0 to win.